You are here:Home/Resources/ Middle East Garden Traditions/ Browse the Catalogue/ Topkapı Palace Gardens

Topkapı Palace Gardens

Ottoman Gardens
ca. 1457
Nurhan Atasoy;
Seyit Ali Kahraman


Mehmed II, after conquering the seemingly invincible city of Constantinople, made it one of his priorities to rebuild the ruined city. Within a few years after the conquest, Mehmed II had built a palace in the center of the city, but he was not satisfied with its location and decided to build a “Yeni Saray” with a large garden in a beautiful area of olive groves overlooking Sarayburnu, the Golden Horn, the Bosphorus, and the Sea of Marmara. In this extensive area Mehmed II built several pavilions, one of which is known as the Çinili Köşk. The Yeni Saray covered an area of 6,999,000 square meters and was surrounded by a fortified wall 5 km in length. The nucleus of the palace and the buildings around it were placed on an axis of garden-courts, which extended one behind the other and were connected to each other by gateways. This was surrounded by a large outer garden. The palace grew steadily larger as each sultan in turn added buildings, the last of which was the Mecidiye Köşkü, erected by Sultan Abdülmecid in the nineteenth century.

The sultan's private garden was terraced following the slope of the ground. It seems to have been made up of several small gardens, some for flowers and others for vegetables. A document of the second half of the eighteenth century gives an example of one of these gardens. It describes the renovations to one of the ağa’s garden (his name and title are not given): the fence, fountain, and pool were repaired and a new spout given to the large pool, while the curtains of the pavilion across the court from the Taşlı Köşk were repaired.

Although the regulations for the gardeners who looked after the gardens were changed at a later period, the custom that the profit from surplus produce went into the sultan’s private purse continued until late in the sultanate. A one-page inventory in the Topkapı Palace archives records briefly the produce for Ramadan 1526 of the gardens known as Bahçe-i Hassa, Bahçe-i Mamak, Bahçe-i Selim Baba, and Bahçe-i İsmail. Another document shows that, from time to time, the produce of the imperial garden, the profits of which went into the sultan's pocket, was stolen to be sold on the market.

Different types of flowers continued to be cultivated in the Topkapı Palace gardens during the nineteenth century. 


The text for this entry is adapted from Nurhan Atasoy, Garden for the Sultan, 240–63.